What I learned in Haiti

What I learned in Haiti

Tracey Tooke’s journey of discovery
For 16 years Tracey Tooke has worked as a nurse, first as an LPN and now as an RN at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax. Her career has taken her to developing countries four times, twice as a member of Team Broken Earth. The experience of working in such challenging conditions is one of the things that keep her motivated. “It’s what gives me my nursing drive. It revitalizes me. It’s humbling. It reminds me of why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place,” she says. But it’s not for everyone. “You have to be a strong person, flexible and adaptable. A task that takes five minutes here might take an hour in Haiti,” and standing by helplessly is heartbreaking.

Just simple, day-to-day procedures such as monitoring patient oxygen levels can become a hurdle that requires patience and creativity to overcome. In Halifax, every patient would have a monitor, but in Haiti, there was only one, and that was stationary. “We had to feed it over partitions to reach other patients.”

Tooke also became aware of the amount of waste produced by the modern hospitals she has worked in. Everything was reused in Haiti. There’s a lot that people in the developed world take for granted, she says. “People here complain about hospital food,” while in Haiti, patients depend on family to feed them. She remembers one 14-year-old orphan who had a leg amputated and was basically living off whatever food the volunteers could find and share, because there was no family to help. On her second trip with Team Broken Earth, Tooke knew to pack protein bars and items that could be given to patients.

For Tooke, one of the most memorable things about working in Haiti was the gratitude she felt. “They’re so grateful for what you are able to give them,” no matter how little that is. People often remind her that she can’t help everyone, but “just doing your best can make a huge difference in the life of one person,” she says. “I don’t think the general public in the developed world really gets it.”

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